Adam Piggott

Gentleman adventurer

The Townsville floods were supposed to be someone else’s problem.

Australia has been coping with relentless heat across the entire continent as well as pouring rain and floods in the Far North. Of course, this has generated much media coverage here in Europe. In Holland where I live, lately people have begun commenting to me on the present awful state of affairs in my home country as regards the climate. My standard response is to guffaw inappropriately, roll my eyes, and declare that what Australia is going through right now is simply called summer. It happens a lot over there, like every 9 months or so.

My interlocutors inevitably express surprise at my declaration that nothing special is happening right now down under in Australia. If they persist I regale them with some of the maximum temperatures that I labored under while working in mining exploration in the Western Australian desert. Or the time when I was in high school in the mid 80s when we had more than 90 days in a row where the daytime temperature never got below 35 degrees Celsius. Without air conditioning.

The one unusual happening in this Australian summer has been the extent of the monsoon flooding in the Far North city of Townsville, which is officially the most boring city in Australia, if not the entire world. The flooding itself is somewhat unremarkable as that part of the world tends to flood on a regular basis, which is a direct result of an average rainfall that is measured in meters. What is unusual is the extent of the destruction, with tens of thousands of homes going underwater. As someone who lived in Cairns for 5 years, I know that part of the world quite well, and such devastation is very out of the ordinary.

Particularly for Townsville seeing as the city is rather steep and hilly. I had to stay in Townsville on numerous occasions for work and my abode of choice was a cute B&B in a big old colonial style house up on one of the main hills. To call the area steep would be like saying that Everest seems fairly high. So how did this area flood?

Townsville flood maps reviewed as more homes go under.

On the map the large white part are the hills around which the city of Townsville was built. They built it there all those years ago because the entire area is prone to flooding. But the expansion of the city in recent years has seen the local council giving approval for entire suburbs that are literally built on a flood plain in a monsoonal climate. How could the council possibly have given permission for developers to build there?

Why, they used computer models of course. Now where have we heard of climate computer models before …?

Local Government Associa­tion of Queensland chief executive Greg Hallam said Towns­ville’s flood maps relied on “exhaustive modelling of every possible scenario”, looking at variable­s such as rainfall and artificia­l structures.

“We’re not God. We don’t have supreme knowledge. We only have the best science, the best knowledge we can have,” he said. “We now know with the (dam) gates fully open … what will flood and what won’t, so there will be a new set of flood maps prod­uced out of this event.”

Mr Hallam said Townsville’s maps were prepared using a “Monte Carlo” risk analysis, which models the likelihood of different outcomes in hard-to-predict situations, as recommen­d­ed in 2012 by experts attache­d to the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry.

They call anything science these days. It’s not science, it’s utter crap, although now that means essentially the same thing. They set up their computer models to give them the answer which their clients, in this case the council and the developers, wanted to have and were paying money to get. That’s what science is now; the client pays the money, gets their model, and hey presto, science!

The next time some climate change berk wheels out the old computer model argument, feel free to use this example to rub his face in it. Because it turns out that these models are simply that; models. And if you go by their own words when it all goes to crap, they’re not God. Funny that, I never thought they were.

And another thing; a one in a hundred year flood means that you will get one of those floods at least once every hundred years. But obviously when the “scientists” come up with their models, their predictions are assuming that the hundred year event will happen in a hundred years from today, which makes it somebody else’s problem.

Which is the same outcome for climate change. Once they’ve finally destroyed our industry and electrical system in the name of Gaia hopefully we’ll all be dead, or at least that’s how their reasoning goes.


The future leaders of the Church.


Friday hawt chicks & links – The time warp edition.


  1. Allen

    Learn to Code => Computer Models. Aieeee!

    It truly is amazing how some people put such faith in computer models, without seeming to understand what the operative word is. Model. As in simulation, not reality, to be viewed with skepticism. As a friend of mine once said, who developed a model that is considered world class, “give me enough fitting constants and I can make an elephant dance.”

    Hey, I’ve got some barely used models here, going for a song, want one? I wish I had that gig, so it flooded, sue me. I told you it would flood within one hundred years, well it happens to be this year.

  2. Robert Wood

    The first thing that was taught when I did my systems modelling course during my uni degree is that a model is only as good as the data that is is based upon, and should never be solely relied upon to make a forecast. You also need to collect the empirical data as well to determine whether said model is working as designed and adjust accordingly. As we can see with the climate change models, the empirical data nowhere matches what the models forecast for the future or even what has occurred in the past.
    It’s not just Townsville that this explosion of opening up previously designated flood-prone areas to residential housing has occurred. You only need to see all the floods that have occurred in the last decade in Queensland (Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Emerald, Brisbane to name a few examples) to see the many cases of homes being inundated by floodwaters that were situated on well-known flood areas, but local councils decided to allow development to occur there anyway due to pressure from land developers. In my opinion this is criminal what the councils have allowed to happen, all in the name of getting more rates.

  3. MPH

    So they admit a flood was inevitable, the only question was how long til it hit, for which they used a computer. Wonder what the insurance companies models said, they tend to be a bit sharper when it comes to risk of loss.

  4. Moritz Kraemer

    “Monte Carlo” is a shit way to mske models. Its quicker and cheaper than an exhaustive calculation ( or brute force, if you will ), which is why they picked it. Or they were literally bought out. Either way, these developers are about to make even more money fixing all the houses they built two years ago.

  5. “… a one in a hundred year flood means that you will get one of those floods at least once every hundred years.”

    Sorry, Adam. Speaking as someone who knows a bit about Stat and Prob, that’s incorrect. It means that *every* year there is a 1/100 chance of flooding just as every flip of a coin is 50/50. The previous has no effect on the subsequent whatsoever. You could get 10 years of the event in a row and the odds are still the same for the 11th.

    • Adam

      Soca, don’t be sorry, that’s an excellent point.

    • Phil B

      I agree with socabill. Over a 30 year period, there is an approximate one in four chance that the place will flood if it is a “once in 100 years” probability.

      The maths go like this:

      If the place will flood once every 100 years then the probability of this occurrence is 1/100 or .01.

      The probability it will NOT flood is therefore 99/100 or .99

      Now The probability of NOT flooding over a 30 year period is .99 raised to the power of 30. In other words, .99 x .99 x .99 x … (.99 multiplied by itself a total of 30 times) which is 0.7397

      Subtract that from 1 and the probability it WILL flood over that 30 year period is 0.26. Or about a 1 in 4 chance. Not so tempting odds now, eh?

      And as socabill points out at the start of every year, the probability reverts back to the original state and there is nothing to prevent or predict that the same event will not occur 10 years in a row, just as you can throw an unbiased dice and get 6 ten times in a row or toss a coin and get 10 heads in a row. Probability is a bugger like that, eh?

      There are lies, damn lies and statistics which bamboozle the credulous and politicians but that is taken as a given..

      Yes, I know. I need to get out a bit more at night … >};o(

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: